Milwaukee Brewers Internal Options May Be the Key to the 2010 Season
Over the last few weeks, the frenzy of the trading deadline shifted the focus of experts and fans from the game of baseball itself to the movement of player personnel around the league.
Over a week after the passing of the no-waiver trading deadline, we still hear about all the moves that could or should have been made by various franchises in Major League Baseball.
Naturally, the Milwaukee Brewers receive an honorable mention in such conversations, but unlike last season, this time around, they are mentioned as the team that surprised everyone by not making a major move.
Doug Melvin has been openly criticized by a large group of fans who wanted to see the Brewers GM give his team a chance to compete for a playoff spot for a second straight season by landing a big name starting pitcher.
Yet, many experts have pointed out, and rightly so, that the Brewers have more than just one gap to fill, and that the mere addition of a solid arm to the starting rotation would likely not suffice for making a convincing run at the highest level.
With that in mind, I decided to focus not on pitching, but rather on what other moves the Brewers should consider in the offseason to give themselves an opportunity to compete.
First, the Brewers need to do something with the shortstop position as JJ Hardy has had an awful year at the plate.
With Escobar appearing ready to take over the starting job, it may be time for Hardy to move on with a different organization.
The reluctance of Melvin to part with Escobar at the trading deadline proved that Hardy does not have a long-term future with the Brewers unless he miraculously accepts a transition to a new role in the infield.
In 2008, the position begging for most help was second base, where Rickie Weeks struggled to meet the high expectations everyone had for him.
A year later, things at second base look a lot different.
Weeks got off to the best start of his career and showed no signs of slowing down before injuring his wrist and landing on the DL, possibly for the remainder of the 2009 season.
Weeks' injury and third baseman Bill Hall's struggles allowed Craig Counsell and Casey McGehee to blossom and prove that they can bring real value to the club as starters and not just as reliable options coming off the bench.
Eventually, the Brewers traded for an established second baseman and a seasoned lead-off hitter in Felipe Lopez.
All of the aforementioned moves and circumstances leave the Brewers with a decision to make in terms of who they would like to see to at second base in 2010.
This is where I see the biggest opportunity for the Brewers to kill two birds with one stone.
Rickie Weeks will be a Brewer next season, notwithstanding an unexpected trade in the offseason.
I will be very surprised to see him let go if he recovers from his wrist injury.
With the type of season Weeks was on the verge of having, Melvin should consider hanging on to his young player to see exactly what the Brewers may have in their possession.
If nothing else, Weeks can only raise his trade value by proving to the rest of the league that all the noise about him over the past few years has not been for nothing.
Lopez is eligible to become a free agent, but, I think it would be a mistake if the Brewers do not offer him an extension.
Players with his discipline, high batting average, good speed, and solid arm in the infield are not easy to find in the stagnant market Major League Baseball has entered.
Since the Brewers would consequently end up with two legitimate starters at second base, without even counting McGehee and Counsell, the Brewers will have to think about whether it is possible for one of the available players to be moved to a new position, preferably a position of need.
And as it turns out I see a possible fit that kills two birds with one stone for the Brewers.
Next year, Mike Cameron becomes a free agent and it is unlikely that the Brewers will pursue their veteran clubhouse leader.
At least not for the $10 million he makes this year.
With Cameron gone, Gwynn traded, Gerut failing to make an impact, and Hall batting for an average lower than his weight, the internal options appear exhausted.
Rickie Weeks possesses tremendous speed that can make him very valuable in the middle of the outfield. He also has a very strong arm and if the Brewers coaching staff can work with him on his fielding precision, Weeks can be the hidden internal solution for the position.
This would allow the Brewers to write the money Cameron makes off the books, which, in turn, may improve the club's chances of signing Lopez to an extension or making a run at Prince Fielder for a long-term deal.
Unfortunately, one of the things the Brewers have been notoriously known for has been the constant shifting of position players, which for the most part has not been all that successful. This is true for both the farm system affiliates and for the major league club.
Bill Hall is the most recent example of how internal rotations may lead to disaster.
But if you are the team that plays in the smallest market in baseball you have to consider such options.
If we assume that second base and center field have already been addressed, the only other positions, which may turn out to be problematic remain right field and third base.
Corey Hart appears to be another one of those player who either have to sign a long-term deal this offseason or get traded.
Last year's All-Star right fielder had a difficult time rising to stardom this season and then, when he finally started to heat up at the plate after the mid-season break, he landed on the Disabled List.
If Corey Hart is to get traded, Mat Gamel would be the obvious choice, though it appears evident that Gamel will not be a long-term solution in the infield due to his erratic hand.
Third base could be addressed easily with the signing of Casey McGehee to a one year deal until Bill Hall comes off the books at the end of the 2010 season.
Without further ado, here is the lineup I offer for next season, eliminating the pitcher spot:
- 2B Felipe Lopez
- CF Rickie Weeks
- LF Ryan Braun
- 1B Prince Fielder
- SS Alcides Escobar
- RF Mat Gamel
- 3B Casey McGehee
- C Jason Kendall
If you are a starting pitcher in the majors, the top of the order, as listed above, could make you cringe, especially if Rickie Weeks picks up where he left off in May.
Boris Yovchev is a Milwaukee Brewers Featured Columnist for the Bleacher Report and a supporter of the children's story "A Glove of Their Own."
"A Glove of Their Own" is the award winning children's story that teaches Pay It Forward through baseball and is being supported by Louisville Slugger, International Baseball Federation, iFungo, Rawlings, Modells, as well as players and coaches including Jason Grilli, Joe Torre, Luis Tiant, Dick Drago, Ken Griffey, Craig Biggio and Sean Casey.
Please visit www.agloveoftheirown.com for more information.
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